Sonia Gomes in her São Paulo studio, 2020.
BLUM & POE and Pace Galleries have added Brazilian artist Sonia Gomes to their rosters. Gomes works with found and gifted fabrics, exploring the embedded meaning, histories, and social significance of the textiles. Issues of memory and identity are at the center of her practice.
New York-based Pace and Blum & Poe of Los Angeles are representing Gomes in collaboration with São Paulo-based Mendes Wood DM, her existing gallery for more than a decade. All three galleries have international locations. Her first solo exhibitions in the United States are forthcoming. The news was announced on June 18.
Gomes, who lives and works in São Paulo, is recognized for her vibrantly hued, abstract sculptures. She sews and ties together textiles and objects. The resulting works are at once elegant, ethereal, and organic, and odd, curious, and contorted. They rise from the floor, extend from walls, and suspend from above.
Her sculptural creations “reclaim Afro-Brazilian traditions and feminized crafts from the margins of history,” Pace said.
She has worked with found furniture, purses, and even a 50-year-old wedding dress. “I always work with materials that I appropriate—things that exist before I make the work,” Gomes told Cultured magazine in 2018. “From the moment the material arrives in my life, I feel a responsibility for it and to the person who it came from.”
“From the moment the material arrives in my life, I feel a responsibility for it and to the person who it came from.” — Sonia Gomes
SONIA GOMES, Works from “A vida não me assusta” series, 2020. | Photo by Ana Pigosso. © Sonia Gomes, Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo and Mendes Wood DM
Gomes, 72, was born in Caetanópolis in northeast Brazil. She trained at Escola Guignard, a public university in Belo Horizonte. She was in her mid-40s when she established her practice and began honing her unique and innovative visual language.
Interviewing Gomes for Cultured, Sara Roffino asked her when she realized she was an artist. Gomes said: “I’m from the interior of Brazil and I didn’t have a lot of contact with the art world. Brazil is a little closed off, especially the interior. I never consider myself an artist because I didn’t know how to make figurative drawings. I always made things with my hands and people said I was an artist, but I would say, no, I’m not, I don’t know how to draw. This was how I thought until I took the first art class at the Guignard School in Belo Horizonte and my teacher explained that I was making contemporary art. That was where I understood the possibility of what I could do and I started to make without fear.”
“I’m from the interior of Brazil and I didn’t have a lot of contact with the art world. …I never consider myself an artist because I didn’t know how to make figurative drawings. I always made things with my hands and people said I was an artist, but I would say, no, I’m not, I don’t know how to draw.”
— Sonia Gomes
More than two decades later, Okwui Enwezor included Gomes in the 2015 Venice Biennale, bringing major international attention to her work for the first time. Her work was subsequently shown in a pair of group exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.—“Revival” (2017) and “NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection” (2016-17), which opened at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami in 2015.
After being nominated in 2012 and 2016 for the PIPA prize, Brazil’s most prestigious award for contemporary art, Gomes became the first living Afro-Brazilian woman to have a solo exhibition at the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP). Opening in 2018, “Sonia Gomes: Still I Rise,” featured new works, including a series called Root, in which tree branches were incorporated in her mixed-media sculptures. “Still I Rise” traveled to the Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art of Rio de Janeiro.
In 2019, Gomes’s first institutional solo exhibition in Europe went on view in Germany. “I Rise: I’m a Black Ocean, Leaping and Wide” opened in two parts at the Museum Frieder Burda, Salon Berlin and Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden.
SONIA GOMES, “Untitled,” 2020 (mixed media on paper and cotton canvas 20 1/8 x 16 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches). | © Sonia Gomes. Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo and Mendes Wood DM
The titles of the Brazilian exhibition and an online showcase made available June 20 derive directly from Maya Angelou poems. Both verses are about harnessing strength, despite challenges, setbacks, and vulnerabilities, sentiments reflected in Gomes’s work.
An online Broadcasts feature, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” is the artist’s first presentation with Blum & Poe and is also available on the website of Mendes Wood.
Gomes is showing 16 new sculptures and works on paper that consider the contrasting concepts of freedom and limitations, within her own work and society at-large. Broken birdcages wrapped in fabric, each housing a stone (a metaphor for an imprisoned bird), inspired the series.
Following “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” Blum & Poe is hosting Gomes’s first solo show in the United States at its Los Angeles gallery space in 2021.
“My work is Black, it is feminine, and it is marginal. I am a rebel.”
— Sonia Gomes
Meanwhile, Pace is mounting a two-artist exhibition featuring works by Gomes and fellow Brazilian artist Marina Perez Simão in East Hampton, N.Y., in September. Gomes’s first solo exhibition with Pace will open in New York City in 2022. In addition, Gomes is presenting commissioned works at the 2021 Gwangju Biennale and 2021 Liverpool Biennial.
“My work is Black, it is feminine, and it is marginal. I am a rebel. I never worried about masking or stifling anything that might or might not fit standards of what is called art,” Gomes said in a statement.
“I always sought nonconformity with things that are established. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles because I’m Black, because I was too old to be considered one of Brazilian art’s young talents. …My work is Brazilian.” CT
TOP IMAGE: Portrait of Sonia Gomes, 2020. | Photo by Ana Pigosso. © Sonia Gomes, Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo and Mendes Wood DM
“Broadcasts: Sonia Gomes’s Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” opened June 20 on the website of Blum & Poe gallery. The online presentation is also available at Mendes Wood DM
SONIA GOMES, “Untitled,” from “A vida não me assusta” series, 2020 (wire, fabric, threads and stone, 8 1/2 x 7 1/8 x 9 1/2 inches). © Sonia Gomes, Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo and Mendes Wood DM
SONIA GOMES, “Untitled,” from “A vida não me assusta” series, 2020 (wire, fabric, threads and stone, 8 1/8 x 10 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches). | © Sonia Gomes, Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo and Mendes Wood DM
SONIA GOMES, “Memória,” 2004 (stitching, knots, different fabrics, laces and fragments, 55 x 106.3 inches). | © Sonia Gomes, Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo and Mendes Wood DM
The art of Sonia Gomes is documented in “Sonia Gomes,” her first monograph published in 2018. The exhibition catalog “Sonia Gomes. A Vida Renasce. Ainda Me Levanto” documents her show at the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) and is published in Portuguese. Her work is also represented in “New Shamans: Brazilian Artists from the Rubell Family Collection” and “NO MANS LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection.” The title of her current Broadcasts presentation at Blum & Poe and Mendes Wood was inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” poem, which was published as a children’s book with illustrations by Jean Michel-Basquiat. A 25th anniversary edition of the book was released in 2018.
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